When Jesus returns, all the people from all nations will be gathered before Him for the final judgment:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In this discourse, Jesus picks out one criterion to determine the condition of the soul: whether the person had empathy for and compassion on the suffering. There are many more issues which will also be examined at this final judgment, as we shall see. Matthew, in his inspired account, does not attempt to write a complete description. We will build up a picture by examining other scripture passages and comparing scripture with scripture. But surely of all issues to examine, this treatment of other fellow human beings must be the central issue. Jesus summarised the law as “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”; and “… love your neighbour as yourself”. Some have said the point at issue is limited to how we have treated Jesus disciples, based on verse 40, “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren”. This is also one possible understanding. It is always vital for us to receive, aid and honour God’s servants. But I think loving our neighbour as ourselves means extending love and care to everyone in need as far as possible, not only believers. I am sure that this is what the Jesus who told the story of the good Samaritan had in mind.
The Bible makes it clear that only people with a true faith in Christ, will inherit eternal life:
Romans 3:19-26 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
A true faith will always have fruits that can be discerned. According to James:
“….faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” James 20-22
It is not that the “sheep” in Matthew 25 will gain eternal life through works. Rather, their faith will be proved to be genuine by the compassion they have for the suffering. “Faith” that does not produce compassion and action to help the suffering cannot be said to be authentic faith. Here are some more truths about the judgment:
The Judgment will be open and in public. Everyone will know the outcome::
“No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” Luke 8:16-18
The Judgment will be for all people of all times:
……. whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” Mark 6:10-11, Mat 10:15
Sodom and Gomorrah belonged to a completely different era. But their inhabitants will be present at the same judgment as us. Everyone who ever lived will be at this Judgment. Jesus will proceed to this judgment immediately on His return to earth. Note that ALL the nations will be gathered before Him
Mat 25:31-32 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
A vivid description of the Judgment is found in Revelation:
Revelation20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Things to notice in this passage:
- An awe-inspiring description of God!
- Earth and heaven fled away – it will be time for the new heaven and earth. We are right at the end of the age here.
- God is said to be the Judge here, whereas in many other passages and in Matthew 25 where we started this study, Jesus is presented as the Judge. Should we think then that this is a separate Judgment? No, because the outcome is the same as in Mat 25 – the wicked will go to everlasting punishment. The scope of both judgments is the same. In Mat 25 it is “all nations”; in Rev 20 “the dead” implying all the dead, and all the dead from the sea and Hades. The one-ness of Jesus and the Father is mentioned, for example in John 17:21 “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You”. So we shouldn’t see this Judgment as being separate.
- Everyone is there, regardless of rank or class.
- The Book of Life is opened. Anyone not found in it will be condemned. Contrary to the teachings of some, this shows that the righteous as well as the unrighteous are present – otherwise why would the Book of Life be necessary?
- The dead will be judged BY THEIR WORKS. See earlier comments on Romans 3 – good works are the outcome of genuine faith.
- There is only one Day of Judgment in the Bible. In the next passage, Paul talks of THE day of wrath and righteous judgment. If words have meaning, at the same judgment, eternal life will be awarded to those “who by patient continuance in doing good” seek immortality, and wrath to those “who are self-seeking” and disobedient to the truth. Again we see the themes of ONE JUDGMENT and JUDGMENT ACCORDING TO WORKS. This passage also mentions the (ONE) day when God will “judge the secrets of men”.
Rom 2 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”:[a] 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Paul here was re-affirming what had been taught by Jesus, and what he himself taught everywhere:
Mat 16:27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works
Acts 17:31… He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained
The rebels and the sinners can expect to receive the wrath of God at the Judgment. But what will that day hold for the believer? This will be the topic of the final Bible study in this series, Secure Foundations 10.
- When will all nations be gathered for judgment?
- Which side of Jesus will the sheep go?
- How do we recognize the sheep?
- How do we recognize the goats?
- Where will the goats go?
- How would you summarize God’s law?
- Who is still under the law?
- How does God justify us?
- Was Abraham justified by works? How can you explain it?
- How do we know the Universal Judgment will be public?
- How do we know people from the past will be there? What specific examples did Jesus give?
- Who will come before the Judgment in Matthew 25?
- Where do all the dead come from in Rev 20:11-15?
- Examine again the judgements in Rev 20:11-15; Mat 25:31-32; Romans 2:1-16; Mat 16:27; Acts 17:31. Are these all descriptions of the same event? If so, how do we know?
- If unexpectedly you had a fatal accident, and you were now awaiting the final Judgment, how would you feel?
- Pray and plan with your group how to teach more people about this lesson?
 It may be asked how were people saved before Jesus’ time? Abraham’s example shows that salvation was always by grace through faith (Romans 4:1-10). Jesus explained that all the Old Testament was in fact about Him: “….all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” (Luke 24:44). So before the time of Christ, though understanding of Christ was not complete, enough could be known of Him for salvation.